The WZZM 13 Toys for Tots School Spirit Challenge is coming up's just 2 weeks away on Friday, December 15. This year we're highlighting some of the amazing schools that are participating.

In Sparta, it's not just the high school who participates in Toys for Tots. The entire district, every school, collects toys for kids in need -- and they've done so for decades.

Collecting toys is not all they're doing this year, the high school is also participating in their own version of an angel tree.

Dozens of Sparta High School students spent their first period Wednesday morning wrapping hundreds of gifts for students in need right here in Sparta.

"The teachers recommend the students that they see could use some help and then they contact the counselors who reach out to the parents. Then they fill out a form that states their age and gender and a few of their interests and that's basically what we use to shop," said Hannah Rumsey, the co-president of the student council at Sparta High School.

Rubber duckies, clothing, toys, this year 250 students will be helped thanks to the efforts of their high school role models who raised thousands of dollars to buy these gifts.

Thanks to the rockstar Knights of Sparta High School who got up super early to promote the Toys for Tots School Spirit Challenge! Go Blue! #earlyrisers #generouskids @wzzm13

A post shared by Meredith TerHaar (@meredithterhaar) on

"It feels really great to help and know that other kids are going to have a great Christmas. It feels good to see everyone getting involved and having the whole district come together as a whole," said Mackenzie Berenbrock, also co-president of the student council.

"I just think its really great that we are able to give back to our community because we live in it so if we thrive then we all thrive together," said Rumsey.

The district also does an amazing job collecting toys for kids in need outside this community. Their Toys for Tots totals are impressive every year.

This year in Sparta there is a whole lot to be excited about after voters passed a $68 million bond issue. Meredith spoke with Sparta High School Principal Matt Spencer and he explained how those funds are being used.

'"Thank you to our community for passing a 68 million dollar bond issue that is going to result in a state of the art brand new middle school, building and safety upgrades across the district, a one to one technology initiative across the district, and state of the art varsity athletic facilities on campus at Sparta high school," said Mr. Spencer. "The quality of and the creation and construction of these projects is second to none."

"Every student has a Chromebook and every teacher has had ongoing professional development in how to best use the Chromebooks in their classrooms because it's not a replacement for instruction, its a tool to enrich and engage the learning for 21st century college and career bound students," explained Mr. Spencer.

"The strength of Sparta Area Schools and Sparta High School are the people that are here, the kids the families, the teachers, and we are all just really energized about all the positivity that is surrounding us."

Also new this year, the Sparta High School Career Academy launched a printing business. The instructors wrote a grant to buy a printing press that's run by students every day.

"This amazing machine is a banner printer," explained senior Melissa Bare. "We are printing banners and stuff for the school, we're replacing old ones and creating new ones for the school," she explained.

"We are mainly working within the school community so we're working with our sports boosters we are working with our administration so our client list right now is very small but we're hoping to expand that more out into the district," said Career Academy teacher Carol Deuling-Ravell.

"It's amazing because a lot of times these kids come to us, they are not on track for graduation, they really don't see a way out, they don't see a future," said Mrs. Dueling-Ravell. "By learning the hard skills and the soft skills, and then allowing us to start talking about what their future will look like, because it may not be in graphics, it could be in something else, but we are really talking about these soft skills that they can take anywhere into any job.

"They begin to see a purpose and a reason to move forward, a reason to graduate from high school, and what does it look like beyond that," she went on to say.

"Ths is just an amazing opportunity because it's really hands on and it gives kids an opportunity to get out of the generic classroom, to be able to put their creativity to good use and do something that they can use for a job later on," said Bare.

Several students hope to join us for the School Spirit Challenge on Friday, December 15.

For more information about Sparta Area Schools, click here.

For more information about the School Spirit Challenge, or to participate, please contact Catherine Behrendt at 616-559-1481 or by email at

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